With all the racism hype and negativity around, last night’s experience at the Melbourne Qantas terminal was really heart-warming. While looking for a seat at the departure gate I noticed an elderly woman with a woollen scarf around her head seated in an airline wheelchair. She reached out to me, and spoke in a language I didn’t recognise, Middle Eastern perhaps yet not Turkish or Arabic. The Australian woman beside her explained she’d found her sitting alone and distressed.
While we were trying to communicate, the father of 2 kids waiting for the incoming flight asked if he could help, with Google translator perhaps. So the focus was on which language? He showed her his driver’s licence, but she shook her head. I asked for her passport and she produced a neck money safe with an Iranian passport. Yay, progress. He tried Arabic in Google translator but she shook her head. I suggested Persian and that worked though a one-sided conversation.
Meanwhile, a Pakistani (?) man asked what the problem was if he could help. Another passenger, perhaps of Singaporean/Malaysian decent, contacted an Iranian client of his, and she willingly spoke on his mobile to the elderly woman. Great progress! Over the phone she could reassure her she was in the right place to catch her flight to Brisbane. Turns out she’d just flown from Dubai on Emirates and was connecting on to Brisbane to stay with her daughter & family.
Then the Iranian woman pulled an itinerary out of her big shiny black handbag, and we noticed on the back was all the information we/the airline needed including contact numbers, language spoken – Persian and Farsi. By then Qantas staff became re-involved, calling the daughter, getting valuable medical information etc.
Earlier I’d asked the man with the Google translator to ask if she needed the toilet and she’d nodded, but that had been overlooked in the excitement of a Persian speaker on the mobile. She kept looking at me, speaking and pointing in the direction of the loo, so I pointed that out to the Qantas staff and she finally got wheeled to her comfort stop.
The feeling of such a diverse group of strangers pulling together, brainstorming practical ways to help that elderly woman was just wonderful.
I ended up sitting in the same row on board, with the only empty seat in the plane between us. I was asked by the cabin manager if I was willing to help her in an emergency, and yes, of course. So I also helped her with her seatbelt, stowing her handbag under the seat, choosing food and drinks, opening the said refreshments. No big deal, so many strangers have helped me in my travels, and I hope when I’m old and need extra support it’ll be there. Quite unexpected was the thank you gift from the Qantas crew manager.
I waited until the very full plane finally emptied and we could move her out to a wheelchair. The Qantas staff sent me on my way then, so I smiled and patted her hand in farewell. She kissed my hand, smiled then drew me close to kiss both my cheeks. I was touched. Her daughter wasn’t waiting by the gate, nor at the luggage carousel, but as I left the terminal I saw a woman (no doubt her mother’s daughter) rushing in, and let her know her mum was waiting just inside. A happy ending to a huge day.
I only mention the nationalities to illustrate the common humanity. I honestly believe there is more good than bad in the human race, it’s a matter of what we choose to focus on.